How many hops are you from this phone call?
  • White House Photostream
  • How many hops are you from this phone call?

Obama calls to reduce NSA's bulk phone data collection. For some reason, the New York Times says Obama is calling to "end" it, but that's not even remotely the case. He's asking for some reforms (Greenwald calls them "cosmetic" at best), including a public advocate in the FISA court (what that person will be able to accomplish in the secret court that almost never said no is difficult to imagine) and stricter access to metadata, including new court orders that would, in the words of the NYT, "allow the government to swiftly seek related records for callers up to two phone calls, or 'hops,' removed from the number that has come under suspicion, even if those callers are customers of other companies." How many people are two "hops" away from you? Check out this interactive Guardian chart to find out. (Spoiler alert: Probably tens of thousands. And how does the NSA decide who's a "target," anyway?)

Who agrees with Obama that the NSA should curb its spying? China. When China is accusing your government of having a surveillance problem, you know you've got a p.r. challenge that needs an old-fashioned, hope-instilling Obama speech.

But who needs the NSA if local cops are able and willing to do the dirty work? As The Stranger has reported, and as other papers have reported, the Department of Homeland Security is funneling millions of dollars each year to city police departments to buy drones, cameras, mass cell-phone data intercept tools (such as the StingRay), and so on. City departments are under less scrutiny than tall targets like the NSA (when Miami-Dade police turned in their grant application for a StingRay, they explicitly said it was needed to monitor who was protesting an upcoming World Trade Conference), and share the data they collect with other agencies large and small via fusion centers, which have almost no oversight. A few weeks ago, Seattle city councilperson Kshama Sawant made minor history by voting "no" on its annual DHS grant which is usually rubber-stamped by city councils around the country, including ours. (She was the only nay vote, so we'll get that facial-recognition technology anyway.)

Publicly scolding the NSA and asking for some tweaks to the way it does business might be good politics, but it doesn't mean much if surveillance capabilities are being decentralized and handed out to cities—and even if a city council here or there keeps its police department surveillance on a short leash, at best that will result in a national patchwork of different regulations that can be circumvented via fusion centers anyway.

Did logging play a role in the mudslide? Fourteen are now counted dead in the Hazel mudslide on the Stillaguamish river. The Seattle Times reports on the area's slippery past, suggesting we should have seen it coming.

A watershed analysis done for the region, which a geologist emailed me yesterday, says that the Hazel slide area suffered from groundwater recharge and the river cutting at its base—and that "ground water supply to a particular landslide can be increased in the short term by clear cutting or wildfire within its recharge area. Alternatively, recharge in the longer term can be reduced by reforestation." The report goes on to say those slopes have a long history of clear-cutting and other logging.

I'm sorry I'm not able link to the geologist's report, but here is an interview with UW geologist Dave Montgomery about the Hazel slide and its history.

The hearts of tuna exposed to higher concentrations of oil, the Seattle Times reports, were deformed and beat more slowly and erratically than those of control larvae. Poor circulation also led to secondary effects, like deformed jaws and fins and tiny eyes. Most of those larvae died.
  • A picture of fish/Shutterstock
  • The hearts of tuna exposed to higher concentrations of oil, the Seattle Times reports, "were deformed and beat more slowly and erratically than those of control larvae. Poor circulation also led to secondary effects, like deformed jaws and fins and tiny eyes. Most of those larvae died."

In other humans-altering-the-environment news... Seattle-based NOAA scientists show how the Deepwater Horizon oil bleed (hemorrhage?) in 2010 is now having microscopic effects in the Gulf of Mexico, including deformations in the hearts of young tuna and other predator fish.

How about some good news? I googled "good news" and got this: "New satellite image 'good news' for plane search." If that's correct, the Chicago Tribune reports, it's "an implicit admission that all 239 people on board had died." So much for good news.

Trust your gut. "In two experiments, researchers from the University of California-Berkeley found people are better at detecting deception using indirect methods that tap into their unconscious minds. They conclude our conscious minds, hobbled by commonly held misbeliefs, tend to trip us up."

Taxicab association sues Uber. Geekwire and Slog have mentioned it—you can read the lawsuit here. It alleges unlawful and deceptive business practices (anyone who's been stung by Uber's "peak hours" charge might sympathize with the sentiment) and the claim that Uber drivers don't have to abide by Taxicab Operators Association rules.

Meet DC's big-shot, small-business marijuana lobbyist: He came from a Republican and conservative background, indicating that the slow détente of the drug war will defy the usual iron curtain of partisan differences. (Or maybe just indicating that some people know the smell of money when it's in the air.)

Meet the man whose doctoral dissertation on animal rights has become an FBI "threat." Journalist Will Potter wrote a good profile of Ryan Shapiro a few months ago, but Democracy Now! has a new interview with the man who is such a FOIA master, the FBI has asked the courts to stop him from trying to shine light on the agency's habits, especially when it comes to activists and dissenters.

What the NSA, FBI, and DIA had to do with the capture and imprisonment of Mandela. So this is why Shapiro strikes fear in the hearts of the FBI and other security-state bureaucrats: "Ryan Shapiro reveals he is suing the NSA, FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency in an attempt to force them to open their records on one of the country’s greatest secrets: how the U.S. helped apartheid South Africa capture Nelson Mandela in 1962, leading to his 27 years in prison."

American guns. "A man was fatally shot Monday night after he confronted security personnel and shot and killed a U.S. sailor aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia."

Crimean defense minister resigns as troops decamp. As the Washington Post reports, there are many territorial gray areas in the region and Putin may take a shot at all of them. Who's to stop him?

A little sweet solidarity. A Colorado girl shaves her head to support friend who'd lost her hair to chemo, the school tells her she'd violated the dress code. Reaction to this story could be about the arbitrariness and idiocy of adults, but I prefer to ruminate on the sweetness of adolescent friendship in rebellion.